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Bhutto's party backs self-rule for province

  • Story Highlights
  • Pakistan People's Party calls for an end to military operations in Balochistan
  • PPP vows to work towards "maximum provincial autonomy" for border province
  • PPP apologizes on behalf of Pakistan for "atrocities and injustices" suffered
  • Party of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto set to form government
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The Pakistan People's Party, which swept the parliamentary elections last week on Sunday called for an end to military operations in the southwestern Pakistani province where intelligence officials believe Taliban leaders may be holed up.

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Pakistani paramilitary soldiers patrol in Quetta, the Balochistan capital.

In a resolution issued Sunday after a meeting of top leaders, the PPP called on the army to immediately stop its operation in Balochistan, a province near the Afghan border.

The party also asked that all prisoners, be released and said it would work toward giving "maximum provincial autonomy" to the area.

"The PPP on behalf of the people of Pakistan apologizes to the people of the province of Balochistan for the atrocities and injustices committed against them and pledges to embark on a new highway of healing and mutual respect," the party said in a news release.

Militants in Balochistan, a province rich in natural gas, have been fighting Pakistani military forces for self-rule. For years, they have complained that the government has paid little attention to them and their economic needs.

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More recently, the province has seen an influx of Afghan refugees. And the Afghan government believes that key Taliban leaders may be hiding among them.

Earlier this month, Pakistani security forces shot and wounded a well-known Taliban operative, Mansoor Dadullah, there.

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The PPP is expected to lead the new Pakistani government after gaining the most number of seats in parliamentary elections held February 18.

Party leader Asif Ali Zardari -- the widower of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto -- had said earlier that a new government would take a more reconciliatory approach toward the militants fighting for greater autonomy. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About PakistanPervez MusharrafNawaz SharifBenazir BhuttoAl Qaeda

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